Country Kitchen: Macaroni-From Italy or China?

Country Kitchen: Macaroni-From Italy or China?


By Mary Emma Allen

Although we generally think of macaroni and other pasta products as having originated in Italy, some stories indicate that this food may have been eaten first of all in China. Apparently, according to some records, the Chinese used a macaroni like product as early at 5,000 B.C.

Supposedly Marco Polo sampled macaroni in the Far East when he traveled there. Did he introduce it to Italy?

Other reports say macaroni was used by Italians long before MarcoÂ’s time. An historical document of 1200, mentions macaroni. Also archeologists of PompeiiÂ’s ruins have found cooking equipment they think was used for making and cooking this food in that city.

Favorite Food of Italy

Nevertheless, macaroni has been a favored food of Italy for centuries and has been mentioned in Italian literature, including BoccaccioÂ’s "Decameron." Scenes of people eating macaroni have appeared in old paintings.

By the 14th century, macaroni was used extensively. However, for the next 100 years, the method of making macaroni was kept a well-guarded Italian secret, and only in that country was this food produced.

Origin of Name

> The name of this product is said to have come from an Italian ruler. He supposedly exclaimed, after eating this tasty dish, "Ma caroni," an Italian phrase meaning, "How very dear."

Another belief about the origin of the word is that it comes from the Greek, "makarios," meaning blessed, or "makaria," referring to food eaten in honor of the dead. Thus some food authorities think macaroni may have been used at funeral feasts many years ago.

Many Varieties of Pasta

The Italian pasta foods consist of more than a hundred varieties They range in size from huge ones, which are stuffed, to the minute pieces for soups.

Shapes include stars, shells, spindles, hats, boots, spears, butterflies, bows, and many more. Of these, macaroni and spaghetti are the most well known in this country.

Correct Cooking Procedure

According to some cooks, pasta isn't cooked correctly in this country, unless by true Italians. Much of the macaroni and spaghetti served here, they say, is overcooked and served lukewarm.

Correctly cooked pasta should be boiled in plenty of water so excess starch is shed, stirred often to prevent sticking together, taken from the pot when tender and chewy, not mushy, and drained immediately. Then serve it piping hot in a headed dish or platter.

Also, pasta that is used for casseroles should never be cooked more that three fourths done, otherwise the resulting baked dish will be mushy.

FRIED MACARONI is easy to make. Cook 8 oz. macaroni in boiling water until desired tenderness is reached; drain well. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in skillet; add clove of garlic.

Fry macaroni until bottom is golden brown; turn with spatula and brown on other side; sprinkle with grated cheese and serve hot.

MACARONI STOVE TOP CASSEROLE - Brown 1 cup soft bread cubes in 2 tablespoons margarine; add dash of garlic salt and set aside.

Put 8 oz. cooked elbow macaroni (you can use other pasta) in top of double boiler over boiling water. Mix together 1 cup dairy sour cream, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, dash of paprika.

Heat through until egg yolks are cooked and ingredients well mixed. Place bread cubes over top. Serve hot.

(You can place macaroni mixture in a casserole under a broiler for a few minutes to brown the crumbs more.)



(C) 2003 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at me.allen@juno.com

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